St. Peter's Anglican Church of Uganda,Boston -

By The Reverend Holly Layman Antolini
An Address to St. Peter’s Ugandan Church Fundraising Dinner
November 25, 2012
Let us pray:
Your word, O God, is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Before you no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to your eyes, you to whom we must render an account. Still, we hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one, Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, who in every respect has been tested as we are... Therefore we approach your throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. AMEN.
It is my great honor to join you tonight for this festive and important occasion, the third annual Fundraising Dinner for your new building! I feel very humble in speaking to you, because I am so deeply moved and impressed at the way in which you and your pastors Christine Nakyeyune and Mary Tusuubira have centered yourselves in Christ’s Spirit and GROWN to be such a vibrant congregation! It makes me think of one of my favorite passages in the Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4:
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s giftThe gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Clearly here at St. Peter’s we see “the Body of Christ’s growth in building itself up in love!” And for that I give thanks, and in it, I rejoice. I only hope I can bring you, by the same grace of God, some word of wisdom tonight to encourage you to continue, and in the strength of Christ, to build yourselves a house in which you can give praise to God and receive God’s instruction and comfort and strength to pursue God’s mission of love in the world around you.
So let us talk a bit about this “growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love,” which is the work of a congregation. Let’s talk about it in relation to your task and goal of raising the money for a down-payment on a new church building for your congregation. To do so, I want to draw on the wonderful work of the Rev. Eric Law, and his image of “The Holy Currencies.”
God in Jesus invites us to give generously of our money & possessions, NOT because God wants to deprive us but because God KNOWS WHAT MAKES US WELL AND WHOLE, FULL OF GOD’S SHALOM. And God KNOWS WHAT MAKES THE WORLD GOD LOVES WELL AND WHOLE AND FULL OF GOD’S SHALOM, GOD’S KINGDOM, GOD’S COMMONWEALTH OF LOVE, FULLY REALIZED. God invites our generosity IN ORDER TO BLESS US.
Remembering how much Jesus loves us, and remembering that Jesus invites us to GIVE and GIVE GENEROUSLY simply because GIVING BLESSES US, let’s talk about MONEY. But even as we do that, even as we get down to business and talk about your mission and ministry at St. Peter’s and the need for MONEY to support it by supporting the purchase of a building for your congregation, I want us to talk about it not just in terms of THE CURRENCY OF MONEY, but in terms of an entire CYCLE OF BLESSINGS active in a healthy congregation that is “building itself up in love,” a cycle we call THE HOLY CURRENCIES, thanks to the Rev. Eric Law, who is the author of this vision of the enterprise of being God’s Church. []
Notice I said, “CURRENCIES,” not “currency.” We all KNOW what a CURRENCY is, don't we? We've all got some in our pockets or purses! We associate CURRENCY with MONEY, don’t we? Because money is the medium of exchange we use to get goods and services. No one is confused by a reference to the Currency of Money. Unfortunately, that means that we tend to think the Currency of Money is THE important medium of exchange in church life, and so we tend to overlook the essential and much broader and more diverse FLOW OF CURRENCIES that actually give us LIFE AS THE BODY OF CHRIST, of which money is only a part.
Mind you, as we know well, gathering here to raise money for a new church, money is important, yes. But equally important are other Currencies that help a congregation grow up in every way into Christ who is the Head. Another Currency, the next in the Rev. Eric Law’s Cycle of Blessings for sustainable, missional ministry is The Currency of Time & Place. You at St. Peter’s know this very well indeed, because you are currently SHARING the Currency of Place with Christ Church, and while that is indeed a profound blessing, it has its limits. You have to negotiate between two congregations for time in the building to hold your activities. You have to negotiate housekeeping! You even have to negotiate IDENTITY, since it is Christ Church’s name on the door, not your own. It’s CLEAR why St. Peter’s needs to INVEST in its own BUILDING, isn’t it?
And the Currency of TIME??? Isn’t that the shortest thing in supply in these busy days in North America? Let’s not even start with Money; who’s got TIME to spare, these days?!? Time may be the scarcest currency there is in modern America!
When you are rich in the Currency of Time, the next blessing that starts to flow is the Currency of Gracious Leadership, people who voluntarily step forward and take on the organizational tasks and oversight necessary to keep a community moving forward together in pursuit of God’s mission. People who are identified as having gifts for one form of leadership or another (sometimes to their own surprise), who are raised up and trained to deploy those gifts in the power of the Spirit, who are elected and commissioned to lead us, rooted in prayer and the knowledge of God’s presence, grace and continual guidance. That includes your clergy, by the way. Your clergy and your lay leadership are CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to the thriving of your congregation, and as the Letter to Ephesians reminds us, we are ALL GIFTED for leadership of one kind or another, some… apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Equally important and flowing naturally from the Currency of Gracious Leadership is The Currency of Relationship. Like the Currency of Time, this Currency of Relationship can be another tough one in our busy, fragmented, hyperactive and hyper-committed world. But it’s still essential to our ability to live into God’s mission of love. We HAVE TO KNOW EACH OTHER. And not in little clots and cliques, but know each other ACROSS OUR DIFFERENCES, to SEEK & SERVE CHRIST in each other, to WELCOME THE STRANGER.
And the Currency of Relationship extends far beyond St. Peter’s alone. Relationships with the congregation Christ Church! Relationships with other congregations in our Deanery! (Hey, how do you think I got here?!? The Currency of Relationship between me and Revs. Mary and Christine, that’s how!) Your relationship with our bishops and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and with the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda. And on and on. The Currency of Relationship, like the Currency of Gracious Leadership, lies at the heart of your life together. It’s where the love of Jesus Christ gets really REALLY clear and palpable, in your love and concern for each other.
A more unexpected but no less essential Currency in the Cycle of Blessings that sustains your life in Christ is one that flows directly from a strong and trusting Currency of Relationship, and that is the Currency of Truth. This is the currency that often can feel less like a blessing and more like a goad, but without it a congregation can devolve into a cozy little club, maintaining the status quo of privilege, no longer working for the TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD INTO GOD’S KINGDOM, GOD’S COMMONWEALTH. The Currency of Truth flows whenever one of us speaks our truth to others; it flows freely when ALL in the congregation feel able to speak up forthrightly and no one feels silenced or left out of the conversation. The Currency of Truth is always working for justice, always reaching out to the marginalized and voiceless, within or outside the congregation. The Currency of Truth won’t let us rest but keeps us ”seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves,” and “striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being” as the baptismal vows say, until God’s Kingdom comes at last.
So also does the next Currency, the Currency of Wellness. This is the Currency that stresses compassion and mutual support, that acknowledges our human frailty and need for mercy and forgiveness, that works toward reconciliation when there is division, and that accords us opportunities for sabbath and for play. Your ministries of fellowship and prayer are multiplying the Currency of Wellness at St. Peter’s. And what is WORSHIP if not the multiplier of the Currency of Wellness, reminding us of God’s presence with us always in any trial or tribulation, offering repentance and healing, making us ever aware of our blessings?
As you may already perceive, none of these Holy Currencies operates to the exclusion of the others; they FLOW INTO EACH OTHER. The Currency of Relationship is hand-in-hand with the capacity to speak Truth and the desire to support Wellness. Just the way the Currency of Money flows into and supports your mission and ministry, the Currencies of Wellness, Truth, Relationship, and Gracious Leadership and Time & Place mutually enforce and support and INCREASE EACH OTHER AND THE CURRENCY OF MONEY, as they also increase our AWARENESS OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD’S SPIRIT, GOD’S COMMONWEALTH, AMONG US. TOGETHER, they create and increase sustainable, missional ministry among the people of St. Peter’s. TOGETHER, they constitute “treasure in heaven,” the treasure Jesus promises if we will give ourselves utterly to God’s love and follow him.
It wasn’t easy for the disciples to grasp this need to give ourselves utterly to God back in the first century, and it isn’t easy now. As Mark tells us, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’" [Mark 10: 23-27]
As you consider what you are able to give in this third year of fundraising for the new St. Peter’s church building, consider the myriad ways in which the Holy Currencies flow freely at St. Peter’s, with the Currency of Money playing its crucial part. Consider how you have given of yourself – not just your money but your time, your leadership, your relationship, your perceptions of the truth, your willingness to offer compassion, healing, prayer, and reconciliation to others. Because you are deeply blessed at St. Peter’s with Currencies of many different kinds already flowing, and each Currency multiplies the likelihood of the other Currencies flowing as well.
Give and give generously to St. Peter’s this year. Jesus, looking at each and every one of you, LOVES EVERY ONE OF YOU and asks you to give simply because he wants THE BEST FOR YOU: LIFE IN HIS LIFE, the SHALOM OF GOD. AMEN.
Holly Antolini
St. James's Cambridge MA
Gamble everything for love, if you're a true human being...
Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty.
You set out to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses. -- Rumi
The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini
St. James's Episcopal Church
1991 Massachusetts Ave.,Cambridge, MA
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
(617) 547-4070